What doesn't break you makes you stronger -- proverb
What a year 2020 has been! We have all been through experiences we never expected. We have all spent months locked in our houses. We have all missed milestones, birthdays, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and unfortunately, funerals. It is always true that we can look back after a year and see that it was different to our expectations, however, that is particularly true of 2020, and unfortunately the points of difference were not things that we wanted.
In the end, nothing can change the year which has passed, however, for me, it has not always been helpful to reflect on the things which happened over the past year which I found difficult, As such, I offer up this personal reflection, my way of shifting my own perspective, in the hope that it might be helpful to others.
This week we read about Yossef, and how he climbed from the depths of Pharoah's prison to being the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. While it might not seem so, at first, these massively different experiences were both necessary. Without being a slave and being thrown into prison, Yossef could not have achieved what he did.
Without the tremendously humbling experience of being forced to acknowledge how little control he had over his life, how little agency he had, he could not have ruled a kingdom well, and with empathy for those around him. Yossef did not achieve what he did in spite of the imprisonment, but because of it. While nobody would even wish for such a thing, it made him stronger and better in the long run, and that is exactly what he will end up telling his brothers when they come to him so very apologetic.
The same is true for us, though of course far less. While this has been a difficult year, we have grown through the experience. We have come together as a community. We have learnt how much we love our shule. Above all we have gotten far closer to each other, far more empathetic, far more sensitive to the needs of others. I would not have wished for this experience for myself or for our community, for the isolation and the pain, however, I can say that it was a growth experience, if we let that be the case.
I list these things as a way of reframing 2020 for myself, but I hope this might be helpful for others as well. My mother-in-law has a beautiful expression, that G-d squeezes but he does not choke. It has been a difficult year and it is not easing off quite yet, but with the end in sight, let us commit to trying to see something positive in the past year and move through to the next one in a happier frame of mind.